In my experience as an Academic Counselor, I have found that many times, students are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of things that they need to get done. How many times today did you think about stuff that you needed to get done? Did you think of these things during times that you could do something about it? Probably not. As long as this “stuff” is just “stuff” it will be really difficult to get it done. Many times, college students’ to do lists (if they even exist) tend to be “vague blobs of undo-ability.” We need to translate all of the fragments of “stuff” in our heads into concrete, actionable things that we can do. You can’t do a project, but you can do an action.
There is usually an inverse proportion between how much something is on your mind, and how much it is getting done.
People walk around constantly distracted, their focus disturbed by their own mental overload. How many times in the past couple of hours has your mind wandered to something that doesn’t have anything to do with what we are doing? What did you do with that distraction? If you just let it pass, more than likely it will rear its head again and distract you again soon. Your mind keeps reminding you of things that you need to do when you can’t do anything about them at all. What happens, then, is that your brain detects personal failure. Hundreds of these thoughts per day results in an all-pervasive stress whose source can’t be pinned down.
Too often, students just do work as it comes. This creates stress, and the tendency to forget what you have to do. One thing that can help is a little system called “Getting Things Done.” It was originally thought up by David Allen, a business guru and New York Times bestselling author. I have adapted GTD over the years to apply more to college students. The basic principles are as follows.
Basic Principles of the GTD System
- If it’s on your mind, then your mind isn’t clear. Anything that you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a system outside of your mind that you trust.
- Clarify exactly what it is you need to do to accomplish the things that you have written down.
- Review these lists regularly
The Five Steps to Getting Things Done
Over the next week, I will be posting each step of the five-step process. So if you are looking to get organized and get ahead, tune in!